Time and Newsweek put Dick Cheney's hunting accident on their covers this week, a dying story already eight days old. The shooting victim, Texas lawyer Harry Whittington, went home after apologizing for all that Cheney had to go through, meaning the thoroughly juvenile media frenzy that followed.
Time and Newsweek no doubt imagined Cheney delayed alerting the press until Sunday so that they couldn't put him on their earth-changing covers last week. We'll show you, they said, fists shaking at being so obviously dissed.
But we already know every single bit of the story, having heard it hundreds of times over the last week. How to make these covers newsworthy? Easy, if you're a melodramatist at these magazines.
Newsweek's cover promised a look at "Cheney's Secret World," over a picture of Cheney shooting his gun in the field. They headlined their cover story "The Shot Heard Around the World." Now, whoa, as they say in Wyoming. Muslim rioters are killing people over mild Muhammad cartoons in Denmark, and this birdshot accident was the "shot heard around the world"? It gets worse. The subheadline told a conspiratorial tale: "He peppered a man in the face, but didn't tell his boss. Inside Dick Cheney's dark, secretive mindset -- and the forces that made it that way." Cue the "Phantom of the Opera" soundtrack.
Newsweek gave the story 13 pages, claiming that Cheney is "one of the most secretive and mysterious public officials to ever hold such high office in America. He is caricatured as a Darth Vader, spooky, above the law; nefarious." We're told, "Guessing at the causes of his darkening persona is a favorite Washington pastime."
The only ones doing the guessing are those trying to find some justification for this journalistic tripe.
Time was a little less hyperbolic, but they gave the story 12 pages. The cover featured a scowling Cheney behind a blurred Bush with the words "Sticking By His Guns: From the Iraq war to torture to energy policy, Dick Cheney stubbornly clings to what he believes."
The media defended its frenzied coverage of an accident by arguing it's part of a pattern, a pattern of Cheney keeping secrets from the press. He's a stonewaller, see.